“What’s your bag, Klute? What do you like? Are you a talker? A button freak? Maybe you like to get your chest walked around with high heeled shoes. Or make ’em watch you tinkle. Or maybe you get off wearing women’s clothes. Goddamned hypocrite squares!”
Erotic thrillers might be up there as the cheapest, most slapped together genre of movies. So many think that all they need is some boobs, a body count and some sexy sax in the score, and they’ve ticked all the boxes for thrilling, erotic success. But very few become big hits, and even less endure in the history of memorable movies. Basic Instinct gave the genre a huge boost on the 90s, a million cheap(er) imitations followed, and pretty much all of them quickly disappeared. Including Basic Instinct’s own sequel. But one that has endured, that still seems to get more than just a little respect, is Klute.
A rich and important man goes missing. His family calls in PI John Klute (Donald Sutherland) to find him. Klute’s initial investigations lead him to Jane Fonda’s Bree Daniel, a hooker with a heart of gold and plenty of attitude. Their relationship starts out confrontationally, but big surprise, they end up gaining a real respect for each other, and their antithetical outlooks on life and personality traits.
Bree brings Klute into her world of whores, pimps (one played by the always great Roy Scheider), johns and general seediness. While Klute helps Bree realise a few things about herself that she already knew deep down, but needed a little help in facing head on. Together, they use their opposite personalities to uncover plenty of sexy, sexy intrigue and dodgy, dodgy dealings.
One thing Klute does that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any other movie before, is refuse to make Bree’s character broken and sad because of her line of work. Prostitute characters in movies are rarely well adjusted and are almost always there to be saved from their supposedly shameful life by the movie’s hero. Bree Daniel doesn’t seem emotionally scarred or have any misconceptions about who she is or what she does.
I’m sure in the real world, there are plenty of sex workers who do their job and never descend into the kinds of despair movie sex workers are all victims of. Bree Daniel is one of those people. Sure, Klute uses her profession as a pretty central plot point, but it doesn’t make it define her character like almost every other fictional pro.
This movie also makes me understand why Jane Fonda was the go to hot actress reference for such a long time. I’ve seen Barbarella and yes, she’s pretty smoking hot in that, but I still didn’t get it. Why was she, of all the smoking hot actresses in Hollywood in the 70s, the one who defined sexy? Klute answers that question. When she makes her clients feel like their fantasies are coming true, I believed it.
Klute is way better than your average erotic thriller, but it’s still just an erotic thriller and it does drag a bit. By the time we get to the big reveal and the solving of the mystery, I realised I had no interest in that reveal and hadn’t really been paying attention to the unravelling for the majority of its running time. It’s a decent movie at two hours, it would have been a much better one at 90 minutes.